The Amazing Health Savings Account – The Best of Both Worlds

By Nathan W. Long

By now most people have heard of using self-directed IRAs to make purchases other than stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.  Companies like Quest IRA, Inc., operating out of Houston and San Antonio, have been doing a good job, through a series of free education seminars, of teaching people about using self-directed IRAs to buy real estate, foreclosures, foreign property, invest in notes, deeds of trust, private stock, limited partnerships, LLCs, and other non-traditional assets.  In examining some of the other government sponsored savings vehicles available for investing in non-traditional assets I discovered the highly under-utilized Health Savings Account (HSA).  Before my recent employment with Quest IRA, Inc. I did not know that you could purchase non-traditional assets with a Health Savings Account (HSA).

A Health Savings Account is a powerful investing tool that many people overlook.  Because it is the only account where contributions are tax deductible and qualified distributions are tax free, it is the best of both worlds.  Furthermore, the definition of “qualified medical expenses” is fairly broad.  IRS Publication 502 has an available list of qualified medical expenses. These include a broad range of medical, dental and vision expenses, but generally do not include the cost of health insurance premiums.  You can, however, treat premiums for long-term care coverage, health care coverage while you receive unemployment benefits, or health care continuation coverage required under any federal law (COBRA) as qualified medical expenses for HSAs. If you are age 65 or older, you can treat insurance premiums (other than premiums for a Medicare supplemental policy, such as Medigap) as quailed medical expenses for HSAs.

In order to be an eligible individual and qualify for a Heath Savings Account you must have a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP), you cannot be enrolled in Medicare, and you cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return.  Recent changes in HSA rules allow you to contribute the maximum amount to your HSA even if your deductible is less than that amount.  If you are an individual the amount you can contribute for the year 2007 is $2,850 and for a family it is $5,650.  In addition, if you are over the age of 55 you are allowed an $800 catch up contribution.  Unlike other plans you may have heard about, the amount you put into a Health Savings Account is allowed to rollover from year to year and the profits on any investments with the money are tax deferred.  When the money is used to pay or reimburse for qualified medical expenses the distributions are tax free.

The knowledge of how to invest with a self-directed Health Savings Account from Quest IRA, Inc. allowed me to do some amazing investments this year.  I have a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) for my family.  This health plan works well for me.  I personally like high deductible insurance policies. My family rarely turns in a claim on most of our insurance policies.  Because my family is financially stable, in the event of an accident or major illness paying a few thousand dollars would not be a problem. Over the years I have saved a lot of money by using high deductible insurance policies.  When I discovered that Quest IRA, Inc. offered self-directed Health Savings Accounts I saw a great opportunity.

This year my wife needed extensive dental procedures.  The cost went well over $5,650.  The insurance company did not pay because it was a dental procedure and I don’t carry any dental insurance.  I opened an HSA with Quest IRA, Inc. with a maximum deposit of $5,650. I could have immediately taken a distribution for my wife’s dental expenses, effectively negotiating a discount on the dental bill equal to my marginal tax rate.  Instead I chose to leave the money in the HSA and invest the money in partnership with my son’s Roth IRA and my wife’s Roth IRA to purchase a note secured by a first lien on real estate.  The note was for 12% with a 2% origination fee and all costs were paid by the borrower, including Quest IRA Inc., fees, with an 18 month balloon.

I can add $5,800 again to the HSA in January of 2008.  As the money grows I can take any amount of money out of the account as long as I have qualified medical expenses, including dental or vision expenses, to be reimbursed.  Since I already have a large amount of dental bills I just keep these bills along with any others in a file.  When I want to withdraw some money for any reason I just request a reimbursement for the expenses regardless of the year the expenses were incurred, as long as the expense was incurred after opening my HSA.  That being said, don’t make the same mistake I made.  I opened my HDHP at the first of the year but waited to fund my Quest IRA Inc. HSA until I could fund it fully.  My wife had some of the dental work done before I opened the HSA.  The work done before the HSA was opened will not qualify for a tax free reimbursement.  If I would have simply opened the account with a small amount then funded the rest later in the year I could have used those expenses as well.

If in the future we decide that a HDHP is not good for our family we can switch to another plan.  We will not be able to continue to contribute to the HSA, but we can keep the HSA open and withdraw the money out as needed tax free for qualified medical expenses.

If I had just paid for the dental expenses out of my pocket like I originally planned to, I would have lost the opportunity for a $5,650 deduction on my taxes and the opportunity to make a great investment. Remember, I can take the money out as my investments mature and gains on the investments can be withdrawn tax free. Like we always say here at Quest IRA, Inc., “You don’t have to think outside the box, just realize the box is bigger than you think!”

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